Flames open season against provincial champs

Chris Johnson repeatedly bounced a ball off the boards at Memorial Arena as the South Okanagan Flames lacrosse team got ready for practice Wednesday.

Chris Johnson repeatedly bounced a ball off the boards at Memorial Arena as the South Okanagan Flames lacrosse team got ready for practice Wednesday.

The countdown is over as the Flames, with new coach Tony Ramsay, opens its Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League season against the provincial champion Kamloops Venom at Memorial Arena Friday at 7:30 p.m.

“I didn’t know Kamloops was the defending champions,” said Johnson, when asked what it would like to face them. “I’m looking forward to kicking them off. It’s a good test to see how the team does, how guys step up.”

Johnson, who recently wrapped up his junior B hockey season with the Columbia Valley Rockies in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, is glad to be back playing with the Flames after skipping last year because of an injury.

“I love the contact,” said Johnson. “It will be a good year.”

Forward Derek Grimm is also looking forward to a new season as the young talent coming in gives him optimism. Grimm feels they will bring intensity and he is eager to show teams in the TOJLL “that Penticton can play with the big names.”

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Grimm, who is joined by brother Dean.

What excites Grimm about the season is that they are playing in Penticton, which can attract more local fans. He also likes that they are playing in Memorial Arena.

“It’s kind of homey,” said Grimm.

In facing the Venom, who finished fourth during the 2010 Founders Cup in Mimico, Ont., for the national junior B championship, Ramsay expects them to be one of the top teams.

“In goaltending, I think we have an edge there,” said Ramsay, who will be going with Dean Grimm and Bred Stel. “Kamloops has skilled players. I’m very excited.”

Ramsay, who has taken over from Geoff Goodman, intends to implement an open, fast break system.

“Right now I don’t have numbers so I run with three lines,” said Ramsay, who has players returning from school. “Last year wasn’t a very successful year. We can only go up from there (0-2-12).”

Among the players Ramsay is counting on are Brad Deshane, Grimm in goal, his son Quinn and Mitch Walton, who he expects to be an impact.